Terrace Walk Franz Josef Glacier Village
This stunning short walk takes you straight into the podocarp hardwood forest. Walk to a historic gold mining sluice face only a few hundred metres from the centre of the Franz Josef Glacier Village. The walk takes thirty minutes return and in clear weather is easily completed in street shoes. After dark, you can see glow worms hidden in old tree stumps and on the sluice face itself.
On the main road through town at the southern end of the Franz Josef Glacier Village look for the 'Our Lady of the Alps' church. The trailhead is a two-minute walk beyond the church on the left hand side of the highway.
The Terrace walk leads you through a flat section of Wild West Coast podocarp forest before you start a gradual ascent up a line of gold mining tailings. You will be able to see the remains of flumes and water pipes just before the small wooden bridge that crosses a creek.
Head down towards the Waiho River where you will get an excellent view of the forested banks of the Franz Josef Glacier Valley. In the 1950’s you could see the terminal face of the Franz Josef Glacier from this location. The Waiho or Waiau River was originally a steep gorge.
Today you can see a military Bailey Bridge that has “temporarily” been in residence for the last twenty years. The first swing bridge was built high above the river bed. In a daring stunt Bert Mercer and his Fox Moth used to be able to fly under it. This glacier fed river has aggregated as bulldozed debris from the ever dynamic glacier have been washed downstream by the six meters annual rainfall.
If you drive along the West Coast Road you will see the smokey blue water. It is the calling card of a glacier high in the hills. The Waiho River stays an icy two degrees centigrade all year round and loosely translated the name means “Smoky Waters.” This name may be because of the fine rock dust known as rock flour brought down by the Franz Josef Glacier. Or because on a hot day the river seems to steam because of the difference in the ambient air temperature and water.
The track follows the Waiho River before turning inland to the Terrace Sluice Face. This area is now covered in regenerating bush. However, you can imagine the devastation after water cannons hydraulic sluicing had ruined the landscape.
At night glow worms can be seen in tree trunks and along the banks of the stream. Glow worms are not really worms. They are really the maggots of a fungus gnat Arachnocampa luminosa. They use their twinkling lights to bewitch small flying insects and entrap them in their sticky threads. The Maori call them titiwai which means “lights reflected in water.”
The corridor of tailings that you walk up on the Terrace Walk is a testament to human ingenuity and illustrates the early “diggers” determination to control the landscape. Mr Callery was the first person to find gold near the Franz Josef Glacier, quickly followed by German Harry (Harry Wolmer) in 1868.
Harry had an epic journey from the East Coast climbing over Mounts Meuller and Burster, and descending into the Callery Gorge where he collected several ounces of gold. In mountaineering terms, this is a “staggering” effort even with today’s light weight gear. Later “Piggery Charlie” established his claims at McDonalds Creek and near the confluence of the Callery and Waiho Rivers and “Wombat Jack” worked the Waiho Riverbank not far from the Terrace Sluice Face.
“The Waiho Sluicing Company” was the first commercial venture in the area. They achieved a massive engineering feat. They transported water from the Tatare Gorge to the Terrace sluice face at the Waiho River, via a 500 metre long tunnel system and 350 metres of water race.
Booking and more information:
For more info including detail guides, personal locator beacons, weather updates etc Visit the Department of Conservation Visitor Centre in the Franz Josef Glacier township.
Check out the D.o.C web site for more info on all things outdoor.